Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cat People (1942)

I had not yet seen the original The Cat People when I watched and fell in love with the remake. I imagine some might find that sacrilege, and for sure there were people back in 1982 who thought it was a crime against cinema to remake a movie as great as the 1942 Jacques Tourneur classic, but I say if a remake can introduce you to a movie you had not known about before, and compel you to see it, then that's the best thing a remake can do.

I only just now put together that the remake came out 40 years after the original. When you think of how different life (and movies) were between '42 and '82, it's kind of astounding. Especially when you consider that the differences between '82 and 2012--30 years--aren't that remarkable, in comparison...

Looking back, I had assumed I had seen it at the Castro or the York, but it looks like it was a VHS rental, and the movie was probably released on video to coincide with the remake.

At the time, when comparing the two, I obviously preferred the remake. But I was definitely able to see that the original had its merits, (merits I was more able to appreciate later in life). What most interested me were the similarities between the two.

There are obvious homages to the original in Schrader's remake, the biggest being the scene in the swimming pool. Fans of the original tend to say the scene is better in the first film and it creates higher suspense because Tourneur never actually shows anything, and is able to create fear with mere suggestion.

The curious thing is, aside from the nudity, the two scenes are very, very similar, and in fact, Tourneur shows MORE than Scharder does (at least when it comes to the cat; not so much in the nipple department). Tourneur's version includes some animated shadows, and at one point, a briefly animated cat shadow. Schrader's version mainly uses darkness and sound. Watch the original scene here, (can't embed it), then the 1982 version below...

Frankly, I think they're both great scenes.

The other scene that's in both films is when Irena is stalking Alice, and Alice gets startled by a bus. Again, a lot of people praise the original, feeling it it works better because the sound of the bus matches the sound of a hissing cat. But I never actually thought that bus sounded anything like a cat. You can watch the full scene here, but the bus shows up at the very end, if you want to skip ahead.

Schrader's version is a bit shorter, and the bus has been replaced by the St. Charles Streetcar, but I've always thought that streetcar sounds more like a panther's roar than that bus sounds like a cat's hiss...(Scene is embedded below at the right start point, and continues on to the pool scene.)

Obviously, I have a fondness for the remake, but I absolutely love the original as well. I think Schrader's inclusion of some clear-cut homages are great updates, and that the movies, as a whole, both deserve praise. Schrader took the violent and sexual aspects of the story that could only be hinted at in the original, and made them the explicit center of his movie. I'm all for subtly and innuendo, don't get me wrong. But sometimes you just want to see a naked lady turn into a cat.

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